I suspect that many video game players out there had never heard of Tetris until this year. And, if you’re like me, you had never played it before being introduced to it via the Game Boy, Nintendo’s new handheld portable system that just happens to come with the addictive puzzle game. However, this game is anything but new, having originated in the Soviet Union on personal computers four years ago in 1985. It has taken its sweet time escaping the iron curtain and zapping players’ minds across the world. Earlier this year we got our first taste of the game on the NES with the Tengen release, which was quickly pulled from store shelves due to a lawsuit from Nintendo. Now Nintendo’s version of the game is finally available nationwide and the end result is: Tetris is Tetris!
If you have no idea what Tetris is, I’ll try to explain as best I can in this review. It’s not the easiest game to explain because it’s such a different piece of software from what most NES gamers are used to. It’s essentially a mind puzzle game where you must line up block pieces to create lines and keep clearing them to avoid the pieces reaching the top of the screen. You see, one by one these different shaped blocks will fall from the top of the screen toward the bottom where they accumulate and begin to stack up. You have the ability to move the pieces left and right as they move down the playing field and you can also rotate them to fit them exactly where you want them. If you create a solid line of blocks horizontally across the screen it will disappear, lowering all of the other blocks that were above down one spot. Sound simple? Well, it kind of is – at first!
The challenge soon becomes more intense as you begin to clear more and more lines. That’s because the blocks start coming down at a faster rate, giving you less time to manipulate them into just the right spots. Adding to the strategy is the scoring mechanic. While you do earn points for clearing a single line, you earn more if you can clear more than one horizontal line at once. To do this you’ll need to stack the pieces up in such a way that will allow you to place a single block to take away multiple rows in a single move. The most you can clear at any one time is four lines, and to do that you’ll need the long rectangle block. If successful you earn a Tetris (hence the name of the game)! Setting up the blocks in such a way to allow for a Tetris isn’t overly difficult after you get the hang of it, but of course the game offers up various block pieces randomly so you often don’t get the pieces you want in the order you need them. This causes you to take chances and hope and pray you get what you need. When things don’t go your way you risk reaching the top of the screen and getting a Game Over!
I’ve been playing the Game Boy version of Tetris for several months now and it’s a great deal of fun. Although I don’t own the Tengen version of the game for the NES, I was able to try it out and it too offers up the same addictive gameplay. Both of these offer up a two player simultaneous mode. The Game Boy one pits player versus player in an attempt to earn more points than the other. Making multiple lines sends “garbage” over to the opponent’s screen, pushing them closer to the top of the screen. This is quite intense and one of my absolute favorite ways of playing Tetris. Tengen’s version has a similar head-to-head versus mode, except there’s no throwing lines at one another and it also has a really cool co-op mode that lets two players place pieces down together. The multiplayer component in both games really adds to the replay and fun factor, and that’s where Nintendo’s version of Tetris comes up short – it’s solely a single player experience.
That’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of fun to be had in the Nintendo published version of Tetris for the NES. On the contrary, there’s plenty to enjoy here and it has the same addictive quality that all of the other versions employ. By far and away it’s the prettiest version available with colorful blocks that look really striking on the TV. One problem I had with the Tengen version was that it could sometimes be difficult lining up the pieces to exactly the right spot due to their flat-shaded solid colors. This version does a better job of showing off each Tetris piece by breaking them up into individual squares and featuring brighter colors to really make it easier to correctly place them. Obviously the Game Boy version is limited by its 4-color green screen, so this version is the by far the best looking.
When it comes to the sound department all of the various iterations have some good tracks. Perhaps it’s because I played it first and have the most time invested in it, but to my ears I prefer the Game Boy tracks to what’s found here. There are three different musical numbers to choose from and none of them are bad choices. They really have the ability to infect your subconscious so don’t be surprised if you find yourself humming the tunes long after you’ve turned off your system. If you absolutely must, you even have the option of turning off the background music to concentrate in silence!
No matter which version of Tetris you have access to, you can’t go wrong playing any of them. They are all really fun and addicting and should attract a different type of gamer – one that isn’t only obsessed with graphics and action. This type of game isn’t for everyone, as I know a few friends have commented that it’s boring to play after a few rounds. I don’t find that to be the case and think it’s a great alternative to the countless space shooters and character platformers that have flooded the NES. I urge you to give this one a shot, but be careful! You might just get hooked for life.
- Graphics - 8/108/10
- Sound - 8/108/10
- Gameplay - 10/1010/10
- Lasting Appeal - 8.5/108.5/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
No matter what version you play, Tetris is an addicting game that has that uncanny ability of eating away the hours until you discover it’s 3 in the morning and you’d better to get to sleep. Nintendo’s version is lacking multiplayer, which is an unfortunate oversight, but not a big enough misstep to impact the overall experience. With vibrant colors, entrancing music, and impeccable controls, this is a game that will have you uttering “just one more round” over and over again.